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2011 - African Migration, Global Inequalities, and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots.
Current African Issues Paper for Nordic Africa Institute.

August 1, 2010 - Oped in Providence Journal U.S.-Africa 'reset' requires honesty about America's wrongs
President Obama has inspired hope in Africa and around the world. Africans who heed his call to build the future, however, must still reckon with the stubborn fact that the United States can be an obstacle as well as a partner.

Spring, 2010 - Foreword to issue of Articulate - End "Aid," Invest in Global Public Goods
Let us agree that the "aid paradigm" is fundamentally flawed, in that it is based on a model of the rich "helping" the poor. But the paradigm advanced by free-market fundamentalism, that poor countries and poor people can and should lift themselves up by their bootstraps, without benefit of support from the wider society, is also fallacious.

April, 2010 - Zimbabwe: Demystifying Sanctions and Strengthening Solidarity, by Briggs Bomba and William Minter
In the case of Zimbabwe today, both supporters and opponents of sanctions exaggerate their importance. The international community, both global and regional, has other tools as well.

October, 2009 - Africa: Climate Change and Natural Resources, by William Minter and Anita Wheeler
Africa will suffer consequences out of all proportion to its contribution to global warming, which is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from wealthy countries. But Africa can also make significant contributions to mitigating (i.e. limiting) climate change, by stopping tropical deforestation and ending gas flaring from oil production.

March, 2009 - Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa, by Daniel Volman and William Minter, for Foreign Policy in Focus html | pdf (283K)
Will de facto U.S. security policy toward the continent focus on anti-terrorism and access to natural resources and prioritize bilateral military relations with African countries? Or will the United States give priority to enhancing multilateral capacity to respond to Africa's own urgent security needs? If the first option is taken, it will undermine rather than advance both U.S. and African security.

February, 2009 - Inclusive Human Security: U. S. National Security Policy, Africa, and the African Diaspora, edited for TransAfrica Forum html (150K) | pdf (2.8M)
Fundamentally, it is necessary not only to present a new foreign policy face to the world, but to shape an international agenda that shows more and more Americans how our own security depends on that of others. The old civil rights adage that "none of us are free until all of us are free" has its corollary in an inclusive human security framework: "None of us can be secure until all of us are secure. "

April, 2008 - Migration and Global Justice, pamphlet written for American Friends Service Committee html | pdf (379K)
"As the global economy drives global inequality, movement across borders inevitably increases. If legal ways are closed, people trying to survive and to support their families will cross fences or set sail on dangerous seas regardless of the risks. "

December, 2007 - "The Armored Bubble: Military Memoirs from Apartheid's Warriors," pp. 147-152 in African Studies Review html | pdf (70K)
"The books reviewed in this essay are a small sample of one genre of war literature: detailed accounts of battle from the perspective of those among South Africa's military veterans who have no question that they were fighting a just cause in defense of their country. "

Jan 31, 2007 - Oped in Providence Journal "Don't replay Iraq in Horn of Africa"
"Somalia is not Iraq, of course. ... But the similarities are nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation ... They disregarded Somali and wider African opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems."

Jul 8, 2005 - "Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order" (pdf)
"The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa."
In Science & Society, July, 2005

Jul 8, 2002 - "Aid—Let's Get Real"
"There is an urgent need to pay for such global public needs as the battles against AIDS and poverty by increasing the flow of real resources from rich to poor. But the old rationales and the old aid system will not do. ... For a real partnership, the concept of "aid" should be replaced by a common obligation to finance international public investment for common needs."
In The Nation, with Salih Booker.

Jun 21, 2001 - "Global Apartheid" (pdf)
"The concept captures fundamental characteristics of today's world order."
In The Nation, with Salih Booker.

Nov 3, 1992 - Oped in Christian Science Monitor "Savimbi Should Accept That Democracy Worked in Angola"
"Just one month after Angolans peacefully thronged polling stations in their first multiparty election ever, the conflict-battered Southern African country is on the brink of all-out war. ... The international community, including the US, has been unanimous, in urging Savimbi to accept the election results, but Savimbi and his close-knit group of top officers remain both unpredictable and militarily potent. The new conflict, which appears to the starting, will be hard to contain."

April, 1988 - "When Sanctions Worked: The Case of Rhodesia Reconsidered", with Elizabeth Schimdt, in African Affairs html (97K) | pdf (3.4M)
"Sanctions, while not the only factor in bringing majority rule to Rhodesia, made a significant long-term contribution to that result. ... Moreover, more strongly enforced sanctions could have been even more effective. If Rhodesia's petroleum lifeline had been severed and if South Africa had not served as a back door to international trade, ... the country could not have survived for more than a matter of months."

1968 - "Action against Apartheid," in Bruce Douglas, ed., Reflections on Protest: Student Presence in Political Conflict
"But the government usually seems to be a very distant and unresponsive target [for anti-apartheid protests]. Therefore exposure of U.S.A. business involvement in Southern Africa - by demonstrations, withdrawal campaigns, etc. - is at least equally important.

African Migration, Global Inequalities, and Human Rights:
Connecting the Dots

William Minter

Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala, 2011

PDF available for download at

HTML version available at links in table of contents below.


Executive Summary
Framing Migration
The Diversity of African Migration
Migration Frameworks: International and Internal
Migration and Global Inequalities
Migration and Development
Migration and Human Rights
Varieties of Migrants' Rights Organizing
Framing Advocacy Agendas
References: Books, Reports, and Articles
References: Websites
Annex: Implications for Development Goals and Measures

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The era of the so-called Washington consensus of market fundamentalism is long past. The developed countries are mired in structural economic crises, while emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil are advancing their economic presence on the world scene and inspiring new policy debates about the prerequisites for development. And a recent joint study by China's International Poverty Reduction Centre and the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that "Africa will be the next big emerging region".

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set poverty-reduction targets for the year 2015, but they did not fundamentally break with the ideology of market fundamentalism. Addressing only "poverty", these goals avoided fundamental issues of international inequality and social injustice. However, it is now clear to many people, including many policymakers in both rich and poor countries, that economic growth is meaningless unless it is accompanied by measures to reduce the structural inequalities in societies. The post-MDG agenda must focus on addressing the underlying structures of production, distribution and ownership — and of power — that perpetuate imbalances.

In Africa, that means we need developmental states that have the capacity to advance both economic growth and social justice. We need new politics that empower the poor and values that advance common objectives and ethical principles. We need new institutions that really work on behalf of the marginalised segments of society. There must be incentives to improve productivity growth, jobs and incomes, as well as resources for realising human aspirations and human security.

But in our globalised and globalising world, no country, large or small, can advance its own interests without considering its neighbours, its trading partners, its region and, indeed, the entire global order. Developmental states need a developmental world.

In this essay commissioned by the Nordic Africa Institute, William Minter takes migration as an indicator of the need to move beyond the national dimension. Migration, he argues, should not be seen as a self- contained issue, considered in the destination countries as a problem to be managed or in countries of origin as an adjunct to development. Rather, migration should be understood as a process emerging from the relationships between countries, especially inequalities of power and wealth. New measures beyond the MDGs must include the national level of analysis, but also directly address the imbalances between countries.

One must also focus on the rights of migrants themselves. Bringing together results from areas of research most often considered separately, Minter stresses that fundamental human rights are due both to those who decide to leave their countries and those who decide to stay. The rights of migrants are threatened by anti-migrant sentiment, xenophobia and the criminalisation of migration in places as diverse as Norway, Italy, Libya and South Africa. And the rights of the global majority in developing countries are still threatened by a systematically biased global economic order. Until fundamental inequalities between countries are addressed, the pattern of migration in today's world will continue to evoke the spectre of South Africa's apartheid era, when authorities tried to confine blacks to their "homelands", except when their labour was needed elsewhere.

African development and global development, in short, require more than measures to address growth and poverty. Conflicts over migration are dramatic indicators that "development" must also directly confront morally unacceptable global inequalities.

Professor Fantu Cheru
Research Director
The Nordic Africa Institute

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The concerns of destination countries and the framing of migration as a problem have long dominated public debate on international migration, and to a lesser extent, policy analysis and scholarly research. Anti-migrant sentiment, leading to restrictive legislation, official abuses against immigrants, and in extreme cases xenophobic violence, is widespread in countries as diverse as South Africa, Libya, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. Migrants are widely blamed for crime, for "taking our jobs," and for threatening national identity. Empirical evidence to the contrary has had relatively little impact on public opinion.

At the same time, there has been increasing attention in recent years to the impact of migration on the development of migrants' countries of origin, with emphasis on the potential contributions of remittances, efforts to counter the "brain drain" of skilled professionals, and the role of the diaspora in investment and "co-development."

Migrants' rights organisations, particularly in Western Europe, have taken the lead in highlighting the need for protection against abuses of the human rights of migrants themselves. There is also increasing scholarly attention to the topic, as well as multilateral institutional attention by, for example, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. But it is still true that the rights of migrants themselves are most often marginalized in official discussions between migrant-receiving and migrant-sending countries.

In 2009, the UNDP Human Development Report called for "win-win-win" approaches to migration policy that would provide benefits for receiving countries, sending countries, and migrants. Such scenarios will have little chance of success unless steps are also taken to address fundamental issues of global inequality so that both those who stay and those who move have access to fundamental human rights. The growing phenomenon of irregular migration, and more generally of "problem" migration that leads to conflict, does not result only from specific national policies. It also derives from rising inequality within and between nations, combined with the technological changes that make migration a conceivable option for larger and larger numbers. Thus trends in migration do not only point to problems or opportunities for development; they also signal fundamental issues facing both those who move and those who do not.

This essay highlights the relationships between different migration issues and the broader context of global inequalities. It "connects the dots" rather than exploring any one issue in depth. It is intended to stimulate further debate and research that can contribute to re-framing migration not as a technical issue for migration specialists, but as one of the fundamental issues that must be addressed in order to bring about a more just global order.

While African refugees, numbering some 2.8 million at the end of 2009, are prominent in the international image of African migrants, they constitute less than 10% of all African-born migrants living outside their country of birth. The majority of African migrants, like the majority of migrants from other world regions, do not fit the definition of refugees fleeing violence or political persecution; rather, they are seeking to escape economic hardship and find better living conditions. Much of that migration is indeed "forced," but the force involved is that of economic inequality between countries and regions.

This paper first reviews African migration by region and then traces frameworks for understanding migration, particularly the links between migration and global inequalities. This sets the context for exploring the specific issues of migration and development and migration and human rights. The paper concludes with examples of migrants' rights organizing, observations on framing advocacy agendas, and an annex suggesting the implications of migration for expanding development goals and measures.

In North Africa, the majority of migrants go to Europe or the Middle East. In Africa's other regions, most migrants move to countries within the African continent, with smaller proportions moving to Europe, North America, the Middle East, or other regions. In West Africa, the movement is largely within the region, from inland to the coast. In Southern Africa, migrants flow predominantly to South Africa. In Central and East Africa, the flows vary markedly by country, depending on geography and on the history of colonial and linguistic ties.

In considering migration and development, the dominant themes of research and debate have been remittances and the flow of skilled labour (brain drain/ gain). There has been more attention in recent years to the broader roles of the diaspora population, but the complexity of diaspora relationships remains one of the major areas that needs further attention.

In practice, protection of the rights of migrants, including both refugees and other migrants, falls far short of that already agreed in international law. Although the 1990 Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers has been ratified by only 44 states, including no major destination country, multiple international human rights agreements require respect for the rights of all people, regardless of migrant status. The failure to respect these universal human rights, and particularly the rights of irregular migrants, is reinforced by anti-immigrant public opinion, by right-wing political mobilisation, and by the practices of governments in their management of migration systems.

Any effective defence of migrants' human rights will require greater organization by migrants themselves, as well as coalitions with other allies committed to justice and human rights.

As illustration, the essay includes brief mentions of four cases of migration-related activism in different contexts: the Sans-Papiers in France, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration in California, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the Migrants' Rights Network in the United Kingdom.

A final section lays out summary observations about advocacy related to migrants' rights in destination and transit countries, to immigration "reform" and "managed migration," and to migration and global human development.

An annex proposes possible additions to measures of progress based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), stressing (1) measures of global inequality and inequality between countries involved in migration systems, (2) measures that might make the MDG goal 8 of "partnership" less vague, and (3) measures for countries of origin on policies related to emigration and relationships with their diaspora populations.